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Diagnosis And Care: Just A Phone Call Away

In my medical practice, I have a simple yet revolutionary idea: I get paid to answer the phone. Every one of my 3,000+ patients has my cell phone and email address so that they can reach me the instant they need help, which is no different than any of my friends or family who may be trying to reach me. Our practice motto: “Talk to your doctor anytime, anyway, anywhere.”

It’s not that I’m trying to not see you, or want to be impersonal or to practice risky healthcare. In fact, each of these common assumptions is pointedly wrong. By answering my phone, I can know my diagnosis and treatment worked (or not), or I can help someone avoid an ER visit or unnecessary office visit. My patients call me when they’re traveling, or at work, or from their car, at night and on weekends. There’ve been occasions that I need to see a patient NOW and I’ve come to the office a 2AM to keep someone out of an ER. No matter what, by picking up the phone to talk to my patients, I’m the first person in the healthcare system to know something is wrong, not the last.

Although good examples supporting the power of a doctor answering a phone occur daily, I have one I want to share with you. Read more »

Consider A Doctor Who’s Not A “Preferred Provider”

Many companies and consumers are turning to higher-deductible health care plans (HDHPs) in order to keep their insurance policies more affordable. The rational basis of these plans is that since you’re using your money and you are in control, you will pay more attention to what is really being offered to you as well as to the cost relative to value. You will be more likely to challenge your doctor to provide the rationale for an expensive test or drug, and to encourage your doctor to innovate to provide lower-cost alternatives.

A trap of these new health plans, as currently structured, is that you’re herded into in-network ‘preferred providers.’  The rationale of the insurance company is that they can control doctors’ prices, thus brokering a better rate for you. They also want to use your loyalty to the network to control physicians’ practices. “Preferred,” in reality, does not refer to quality; rather it just means the doctor has signed an agreement with the insurance company, binding them to the insurance company rules, which favor the insurance company, not the patient.
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Trapped in Family Medicine Can this Marriage Be Saved? Act V–The Unhealthy Triangle: Patient, Doctor and Insurance.

Introduction: Here’s a recap of the scenario to date: Mrs. Doctor, a primary care physician is in marriage counseling to determine the fate of her marriage with Mr. Insurance. While she loves her career (medicine), dealing with Mr. Insurance’s increasingly abusive financial and administrative demands are crushing her soul. Yet leaving preferred provider protection guaranteed through the marriage would be devastating too. And Mrs. Doctor doesn’t want to lose her kids (the patients); decades of historical indicators show that 95% of kids (patients) stay with Mr. Insurance and refuse to see Mrs. Doctor ever again.

Last time, the therapist performed a therapeutic technique on Mrs. Doctor akin to psychological judo. When she claimed she was helpless under the power of Mr. Insurance’ ability to pay the bills, the therapist pointed out that Mrs. Doctor has many more powers than he does, including education and training as a doctor, the ability to order labs and meds, and the understanding and trust of each patient. Why, then, would she abandon the kids without a battle? Mr. Insurance wants nothing to do with the kids, and creates hundreds of games to reduce or eliminate his financial obligation to them.

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Trapped in Family Medicine Act IV: The Choice — Grow Or Pay More To Stay The Same

Introduction: As we pick up with this ongoing series, here’s a synopsis for those of you new to the story: Mrs. Doctor, a primary care physician, has been going to marriage counseling alone since here husband, Mr. Insurance, has refused her pleading to attend the sessions together. He claims she is too spoiled and is threatening to find a new partner and a happier union, not to mention to find someone new who can help take care of their children (Patient 1, Patient 2, Patient 3 …).

Previous therapy sessions went well — until the last one, when the therapist seemingly accused Mrs. Doctor of being to blame for her marriage crises. At this point in time, the therapist asked her to return explaining why she should be at fault, and this is where we pick up:

Mrs. Doctor: I’m upset with you. I don’t know if I’ll continue therapy.

Therapist: I’m sorry you feel that way. Let me get this straight, you can’t decide whether to stand up for your kids (Patient 1,2,3)  or abandon them … or whether stand up to your husband, Mr. Insurance, or abandon him … or whether to stay with therapy or not.
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Trapped in Family Medicine, Can this Marriage be Saved? Act III: Thidwick’s Horns

thidwick-tmIntroduction: To those readers picking up this series for the first time, here’s a synopsis for you: Mrs. Doctor is a primary care physician who is in an unsavory marriage with Mr. Insurance. They care for their adult children (Patient 1, Patient 2, Patient 3…) with the following arrangement: Mr. Insurance will take care of all the financial requirements by paying Mrs. Doctor and to do all the caring and nurturing to keep the kids well.

Mrs. Doctor has come to realize that Mr. Insurance is a jerk and asks her to do more and more while giving less and less money for the care of the kids. Mr. Insurance refuses to see anything wrong with his relationship he has stonewalled all requests for marriage counseling. Mrs. Doctor began counseling on her own to ponder her dilemma through the impartial eyes and ears of a marriage and family therapist. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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